As you can tell from the title of the post this has to do with one of the Vibram Fivefingers barefoot running shoe models called the Bikila LS. This is the model that they tout as designed specifically for road running, with a little bit of extra padding in the inside. As is quoted on the website, the insole features a, " covered polyurethane insole (thickest under the ball) and a anatomical pod outsole design." All this is designed to help disperse a little more of the impact you would experience on concrete/asphalt whilst still maintaining a very good ground feel. Compare with your traditional running shoe which has something like 20mm of EVA foam in the midsole and some 5-10mm extra of rubber on the outsole too depending on the shoe, and you've got excellent ground feel. In fact, I wore these around work and I was simply delighted with how much they felt almost like I was walking around at home barefoot!
For more info from the company, check out their website on the Bikila LS
Here are my attempts at glamor shots:
The upper on the LS model (simply means the model with laces versus the original velcro strap) consists of some breathable material called "Coconut Active Carbon". I have no idea what that is, but whatever that is it is comfortable! The quick-pull laces make this an easy shoe to lace up although it takes some practice to splay out your toes just right when putting them on and pulling them off. All that plus some reflective patches and some minimal TPU (toe protection unit) and you have a comfortable, flexible upper that holds your foot right in there snugly.
Another glamor shot :)
The pod design that they mention is very visible on the outsole. It really doesn't look or feel like much when you pick them up and put them on but those 3mm of Vibram rubber is durable. So far I've walked around all day at work, run 3 miles on a treadmill and not even the slightest sign of a scuff mark has happened on the outsole. I''m hoping that these will last at least 500-1000 miles before they break down. Traction has been excellent on dry surfaces although the rubber is not as sticky as some traditional shoes that I've tried on so if you're trying to do any kind of resistance training with a weight machine like I was doing with them on, I ended up having to lower the amount of weight I was pulling on because I wasn't able to get a good firm grip on the gym floor and ended up sliding whilst trying to use the weight machine. It definitely seems like they're going for durability rather than stickiness.
Comparison of stack heights with traditional running shoes:
Pictured here from left to right: Vibram Fivefingers Bikila LS, Altra The Instinct, Brooks Ghost 5. This and the next 2 photos are to show the difference in stack height of outsole and midsole compared to more traditional running shoes.
Compared to the Brooks Ghost 5 which has a traditional 20mm or so of EVA midsole and 12mm heel to toe drop.
Compared to the Altra The Instinct which is a fully cushioned 0mm heel to toe drop shoe.
So you can see that there is not really much cushioning which means that running form needs to adapt and transition to running in these. Basically that means quicker cadence (i.e. Number of steps per minute), shorter strides and a forefoot strike rather than a heel strike. Transitioning to that running form will help you run in these. The other alternative to learn to run in these is just to run barefoot little by little!
So my personal impressions after taking them out so far on the treadmill for 3 miles are that I can completely understand why people have made the switch. I gave myself some big blisters earlier this week from longer runs in my traditional running shoes but I was able to and have been able to wear these around and run in these without any pain or discomfort from those blisters at all, whereas I'd be forced to hobble around in traditional shoes with any kind of blister. They are incredibly comfortable to run in on the treadmill at least, really allows my toes to splay out and toe off and to move lightly and nimbly too rather than relying on crashing down on the cushioning to help spring off for the next step. They are of course super light and after a while I forgot to an extent that I had them on, especially at work, I found myself looking down and wiggling my toes to make sure they were still covered! Didn't experience any pain elsewhere from running in these on the treadmill, a little bit of soreness in my calves but other than that nothing else and am excited to take these out on the concrete to test them out in the real world! Hopefully will update on my impressions of running in them outside!
Thanks for listening!
Claude for the running nerd side of the Chew family.